Sep 6, 2022 - News

Seattle teachers vote to strike, delaying start of school

A worm made of coins works its way through a red apple.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Nearly 6,000 teachers and school staff in Seattle have voted to strike, causing the school district to cancel the first day of school for tens of thousands of local students.

Driving the news: Members of the Seattle Education Association said Tuesday that they had no choice but to authorize a strike, after the district failed to agree to a contract the union said would adequately support students and staff.

What they're saying: "We had a really difficult decision to make, and believe me, that decision was not taken lightly," the union's president, Jennifer Matter, told reporters Tuesday. "...No one wants to strike."

  • At about 4:30pm Tuesday, the district announced that it "will not start school as planned on Wednesday, Sept. 7," and that classes "will be delayed until further notice."
  • In a statement, district officials said they were "disappointed" with the union's plans to strike, but "remain committed to negotiating on a new contract with our educators."

Details: Union leaders said teachers and students experienced intense burnout during the pandemic, and a new contract must address that.

  • Teachers are negotiating with the district over classroom sizes, pay raises, and staffing ratios for special education services and multilingual education, among other issues.
  • In particular, union members say they are concerned that the district's plan to move special education students into general education classrooms won't guarantee a baseline level of special education staffing for those students.
  • On its website, the district characterizes its proposals as "focusing on student needs rather than fixed staff ratios," and, "moving away from a staffing-to-student ratio to tailoring services to student needs."

By the numbers: The union said 75% of its members took part in the strike authorization vote, with 95% voting in favor of the strike.

What's next: Teachers and other school staff will picket at their workplaces starting as early as 7:30am Wednesday, Matter said.


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